Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 15th April 2017

Rockburn Park, Springburn
Bellshill Athletic v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

Bellshill’s new ground maybe reflects the troubles that the club has gone though since they moved from their old park in the town centre, a bit of fenced off spare grass at the bottom of a scheme but at least they’re back in Bellshill. It’s hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for them in their current situation but it is a reminder of how much of a struggle it is to keep teams like them (and indeed Thistle) going, great credit is due to everybody who gives up their time to make it happen.

 

The two teams both had everything to play for but for different reasons, Thistle knew if they kept winning the league title was in their own hands but their hosts were fighting to avoid relegation. Mark McKeever and Ryan Innes were recalled to the starting line up in place of Gary McStay and suspended captain Mark Canning.

 

 

 

The Jags got off to a flyer when they took the lead after 10 minutes, McKeever latching on to a through ball to confidently roll it past keeper McGraw. The rest of the half was one-way traffic as Thistle took the game to their hosts without much in the way of reply.

 

Graham Gracie had the chance to make it 2-0 before the break when he was put in on the keeper and only a great save denied him.

 

Half Time: Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

 

The second half was more of the same, the ball generally heading in the direction of the Bellshill goal. There were few real chances but the best of Thistle’s fell to Innes who inexplicably put the ball past the post from five yards out. There was a scare at 1-0 when ‘Hill full back Chalmers strode forward and hit a tremendous long range dipping effort that thhe home supporters thought had gone in but had just cleared the bar. It was to prove their only real threat of the 90 minutes.

 

Larkhall finally got the breakthrough in 72 minutes when David Reid snatched a goal, the ball bobbled in the box and fell to Ryan Innes who slipped it through to Reid for an easy finish. The relief was written all over Div’s face at finally getting a goal and his reaction was typical of this Jags team who now know they are in with a real chance.

 

Div got his own second and Thistle’s third six minutes from time, after being unselfishly set up by substitute Gary McStay he shimmied the Bellshill defence to create space for himself in the box before drilling the ball low past the keeper.

 

The combination of a poor uneven surface and a howling wind meant that there wasn’t much silky football on show but any that there was came from Thistle. Although Bellshill battled hard, this was as comfortable a win as Thistle could have hoped for, the Jags were in truth fitter, faster and stronger all over the park.

 

With Cambuslang not playing and St Roch’s only drawing with Wishaw, the league position has been strengthened and the Jags are now level with St Roch’s on 44 points with a game in hand and five points behind Cambuslang with three games in hand.

 

Full Time: Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 3

 

Website man of the match: Josh Payne had a great first half and Hugh Kelly controlled the midfield. Andy Brown however never put a foot wrong and is probably overdue a MoM so he gets it today.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly; Payne, Jack, Innes, Reid, McKeever (McStay 75), Gracie (Mushett 85). Subs: Rutherford, Stewart, D.THomson

 

Bellshill Athletic: McGraw; Chalmers, Shaw, Simon, Howarth; Peat, Smith, Nichol, Brunton; Simpson, Brown

 

Scorers: McKeever, Reid (2)

 

Booked: Nicholl

 

St Roch’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 1 – 25th March 2017

James McGrory Park, Glasgow
St Roch’s v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

After a run of four homes games and not having played away since early January, Thistle made the trip to Provanmill for this vital top of the league clash between the second and third placed teams.

 

The Jags had injury worries, Brian Jack had stitches round his eye and both keepers were carrying knocks and were doubtful. Captain Mark Canning was also doubtful due to work commitments but Stewart Thomson started in goal and Canning made it too, with Brian Jack on the bench.

 

A fine day and the lack of any senior games brought out a big crowd for the game with the vast majority supporting the home team, a dream day for the club treasurer with hundreds cramming the home terracing and shed behind the goal.

 

Thistle got off to a bright start moving the ball forward well but without anything happening up front, Graham Gracie was through on the keeper but flagged offside then Matty Clarke had a chance to play him in moments later but overplayed it on the left side and lost the opportunity.

 

The playing surface was in poor condition and the ball was constantly taking strange bobbles making it hard to play a passing game on the deck and the big St Roch’s defence meant high balls into the area weren’t going to come to much either.

 

 

The tone of the game changed after 11 minutes though when a mix up in the Jags defence let Maguire in to score with a shot into the top corner that left Thomson with no chance. They nearly added to the lead ten minutes later when another mix up, this time between Hugh Kelly and David Reid, gifted the ball which was swept out to the left wing and the St Roch’s man did well to create space for a shot that just came off the outside of the post with Thomson stranded.

 

 

Minutes later Niall Reynolds had to clear one that might have been heading in as St Roch’s settled in and controlled rest of the half, forcing Thistle back into defending deep for most of it. The Jags came closest when Gracie chased down what looked like a lost cause and won the ball back for Reid whose shot brought out a low diving save from Stark.

 

 

Half Time: St Roch’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 0

 

St Roch’s were out of the blocks early in the second half with a quick turn and shot that went just past the post and it looked like we might be in for more of the same, but Thistle have developed a steely edge in their unbeaten run and they weren’t going to go down without a fight.

 

Liam Mushett was involved going forward as well as in defence and he got his head onto a free kick which was partly cleared by a defender but fell back to him, his follow-up shot was well saved and fell to Clarke but he couldn’t adjust his feet in time to tap it into the empty net.

 

Thistle got their equaliser from the penalty spot ten minutes into the half after a Gracie throw-in had again only been cleared as far as Canning on the edge of the box. His shot hit a defender who was going to ground but left his arm up, the referee deciding there was enough in it for a penalty. Canning took the kick himself and beat Stark to the keeper’s right. Shortly after the goal the skipper was taken off due to what looked like an injury to his ribs he’d picked up earlier in the game and was replaced by Brian Jack.

 

 

It would have been a bold referee who awarded Larkhall a second penalty just five minutes later in front of the 700 fans who might just have thought it wasn’t – Jack hit the post and Gracie seemed to be impeded by two defenders who threw themselves down and bowled him over but in the circumstances anything short of catching the ball with both hands was never going to be given.

 

Going into the last quarter of a pulsating match, St Roch’s pressed again and went close with a free header that just cleared the bar when it should have hit the target at least, then even closer with a ball right across the face of the goal just two yards out that had no takers for an easy tap-in. Thomson was then called into action to get a vital touch on a point-blank shot after a corner had been headed back across the goal.

 

Thistle finished the game with the best chances to sneak a win, Mushett helped the ball on towards goal and Ryan Innes nipped in front of the keeper but sent his header just wide, then a St Roch’s defender mysteriously tried to dribble out from his own goal line and got caught out but the ball trundled across the face of the goal and past. In their last effort, keeper Stark and one of his defenders between them managed to hand the ball to Gracie who tried to lob it back into the empty net but didn’t get enough height on it.

 

This was Thistle – and St Roch’s – biggest league game for many a year. The league positions and crowd made it a real big match occasion and it required big players to step up and perform. The Thistle back three and keeper were outstanding other than the blip for the goal and Hugh Kelly and Canning put everything into midfield, Gracie got through a lot of work and led the line well but the real driving force behind what was a tremendous point was Ryan Innes. A magnificent fighting display in the middle of the park that set the marker that Thistle weren’t going to be intimidated by the occasion and were here to scrap and battle for everything that was going.

 

A word about St Roch’s, they have had their problems with some of their supporters recently but manager Andy Cameron and the committee pulled out all the stops to make this as safe as they could for the travelling Thistle support. In the event it all passed off peacefully and in what has to be said was a great atmosphere, and although there is an intense rivalry between the two clubs it was settled where it should be settled, on the park.

 

Full Time: St Roch’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 1

 

Website man of the match: Ryan Innes

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly; Payne, Innes, Canning (Jack 56), Reid (Nicholl 78); Clarke (McStay 68), Gracie. Subs: McKeever, Doyle, D. Thomson

Scorers: Canning

Booked: Innes, Mushett, Payne, McStay

 

 

Larkhall Thistle 5 Vale of Clyde 0 – 18th March 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Vale of Clyde
Central League First Division

 

Thistle went into today’s game looking to maintain their good recent record that has seen them put themselves into a realistic title challenging position. With Cambslang Rangers losing again today, it now looks like a genuine three-way title race with St Roch’s only a point behind in second and Thistle six points behind with four games in hand.

Manager Dunky Sinclair rested Mark McKeever and replaced him with Matty Clarke in a front pairing with Graham Gracie in the only change from last week’s win.

The Jags got off to the best possible start with a goal after just three minutes, Graham Gracie following up to pounce on the rebound when a shot from Clarke hit the post after good work from Josh Payne on the right.

 

 

Thistle extended their lead in the thirteenth minute after a defensive mix up saw the ball fall into the path of Matty Clarke who lobbed it back into the empty net.

Brian Jack had to go off with a head knock midway through the half but it looked to be more of a precaution than a forced move, he was replaced by Hugh Kelly.

At 2-0 up the game should have been all but done but to their credit Vale rolled up their sleeves and battled back into the game, which settled into a dour physical midfield tussle.

Thistle were having most luck when they got the ball out wide to Reid and Payne but despite good work from both there wasn’t much of an end product and the score stayed the same till the half time break.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Vale of Clyde 0

 

The second half was more of the same until Thistle got the breakthrough twenty minutes in, Nicholl and Gracie exchanged passes on the left before the striker whipped in a low cross that struck a Vale of Clyde defender three yards out and left the keeper with no chance.

 

 

The third goal effectively killed off any hopes of a revival from the visitors and for the remainder of the game it looked like a case of how many Thistle would get. As has happened on several occasions this season though, a few good chances went unconverted especially in light of Vale having to play the game with an outfield player in goals. This season especially given how tight the top of the league is, let’s just hope that the missed chances don’t come back to haunt them.

The Jags did go further ahead six minutes from time with a move that was started from a long pass out wide from substitute Scott Nicholl, the other substitute Gary McStay received the ball and put in a great pass across the six yard box for Gracie who rolled in past the helpless keeper.

Thistle rounded off the scoring with a goal from Gracie to complete his hat-trick with what turned out to be the last kick of the game.

A good win and a few goals to boost the goal difference, but the Thistle management will be just as pleased with the rare clean sheet.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 5 Vale of Clyde 0

 

Scorers: Gracie 3, Clarke, o.g.

 

Website Man of the Match: Great to see Graham Gracie looking more like his old self and showing that he still has the ability to be the best striker in the league with a hat trick and the assist for the o.g.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
D.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl 54); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack (Kelly 24), Reid; Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Doyle, McKeever, S.Thomson (GK)

 

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 Cambuslang Rangers 1 – 11th March 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Cambuslang Rangers
Central League First Division

Thistle went into this crucial top of the table clash knowing that only a win would realistically keep their prospects of winning the league alive. Twelve points behind with four games in hand would have stretched to fifteen with the prospect of having to cram midweek games into a tight schedule so the three points were essential.

The Jags got off to the best possible start when after just eight minutes midfielder Brian Jack pounced on a loose ball in the box to swing his boot high and send a great shot crashing into the roof of the net. The Cambuslang coaching staff set the tone for the rest of the day as they appealed loudly for a foul against Jacko for a high kick, despite the fact that there wasn’t a defender close to him. Their protests were as fruitless as they were ridiculous and the constant cries for offside every time Thistle went forward were correctly ignored by the referee.

 


The Cambuslang players showed there was more about them though and came back to grab a quick equaliser eight minutes later. A ball was swung in from a corner on the left and Lang’s Nolan converted at the near post with a free header.

The goal lifted the visitors as they took control of the game for a spell and made a few chances, going close on one occasion with a cross/shot that clipped the post and a volley that would have burst the net if it had been on target. Thistle also had their moments, Graham Gracie replied with a low shot across the goal that went just wide, Mark McKeever brought out a good save and a goalmouth scramble resulted in Liam Mushett nearly poking a shot home but keeper Stewart managed to save again.

Chances at both ends then but the half time whistle came without any further addition to the scoring.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Cambuslang Rangers 1

After the break, both teams made it clear that they were going all out for the win, resulting in a real old fashioned end-to-end contest that turned out to be more like a cup tie. Thistle had the best of the half and put the Cambuslang defence under heavy pressure for most of it, albeit without creating too many clear cut chances. The visitors also had their moments though and came close just after the restart when they hit the bar with a header.

Graham Gracie looked set to put the Jags ahead but a Lang defender managed to throw himself in front of the ball and block his shot – it was probably a legitimate challenge despite the calls for a penalty.

 

The game turned on a penalty decision that predictably the visiting bench didn’t entirely agree with. A cross from the left hit a defender on the arm and it is one of those decisions that some referees will give and some won’t, it was entirely open to interpretation whether the defender was too close to have been able to do anything about it but the referee was in a better position to judge than those who were giving him abuse. One of the Cambuslang players took his protests too far and was sent off in the aftermath.

Captain Mark Canning took responsibility and stepped up to slot the ball home for what proved to be the winning goal.

There were more half chances at either end as the teams went at each other right to the wire but neither keeper was really troubled too much. Credit to both teams for a great contest played in the right spirit – on the park at least.

The win keeps Thistle in touch and although there are some games to catch up, the destination of the title is in their own hands for the first time.

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Cambuslang Rangers 1

Scorers: Jack, Canning

Website Man of the Match: !00% effort from all of the players today but none more so than Mark McKeever who plugged away tirelessly up front.

Larkhall Thistle:
D.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack, Reid; McKeever (Clarke 85), Gracie. Subs: Kelly, McStay, S.Thomson

Cambuslang Rangers: Stewart, Gebbie, Halliday, Nolan, Bishop, Haye, Bohme, Simeon, Gormley, Kilmartin, Hastings. Subs: Kerr, Houston, Brown, Gemmell, Collinder

 

Video highlights of the game (sorry Cambuslang goal is missing, some of their supporters walked in front of the camera just as they were scoring)

Larkhall Thistle 2 Johnstone Burgh 1 – 18th February 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Johnstone Burgh
Central League First Division

After last week’s disappointing exit out of the West of Scotland Cup, Thistle looked to bounce back and keep their league challenge on track.

As they have done for most of the season, the Jags controlled most of the early part of the game and created a couple of good chances, two David Reid crosses in quick succession from the left almost produced goals – firstly from a Johnstone Burgh player who was lucky to deflect the ball off the post and not into the goal, then from a Hugh Kelly header from point-blank range that keeper Kelly did brilliantly to save.

What should have been the turning point of the game came midway through the half when Brian Jack lunged into a tackle from behind after having just been booked, he was duly sent packing and Thistle had 70+ minutes to try and see out with ten men.

Larkhall were forced into a change shortly after when Gary McStay hobbled off to be replaced by Hugh Kelly, a change that might have been going to take place anyway to cope with the man disadvantage.

Burgh couldn’t take advantage of the extra man though and although there were good chances at both ends, somehow the teams got to half time goalless.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Johnstone Burgh 0

Johnstone were first to show in the second half and they scored within three minutes of the restart with a goal that the Jags players must have been very disappointed to lose. Mark McKeever couldn’t prevent winger Fitzpatrick from getting his cross in after some fancy footwork on the left and it was met with a free header in the middle that keeper Thomson got a hand to but probably would have felt he should have kept out.

The fact that Thistle were a man down didn’t seem to have any effect at all on the game and they kept up the onslaught on the Burgh goal all the way through the second half. The pressure produced an equaliser ten minutes into the half with a cracking strike from Mark Canning that rivals Niall Reynolds overhead kick for goal of the season at Gasworks.

The main criticisms of the team this season have been the failure to convert enough of the chances they create and not being able to hold on to a lead. The first one was certainly true today and it could have easily been five or six before Ryan Innes hit the winner with a low drive across the keeper.

They did however manage to hold on to the lead this time and get the win. Both teams had some great chances with Liam Mushett heading over the bar from six yards and keeper Kelly having a couple of great saves.

As the game drew to a close, Johnstone pressed hard for a winner but some great defending kept them at bay and Thistle held on for the win that they deserved.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Johnstone Burgh 1

Website man of the match:
Ryan Innes who dug in brilliantly. His energy made up for the man short in midfield, topped by the winning goal.
Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; McKeever (Doyle 87), Jack, Canning, Innes, Reid; Gracie, McStay (Kelly 27). Subs: Payne, D. Thomson (GK)

Johnstone Burgh:
Kelly; McCormick, Nugent, Perrie, Carson; Usher, McIntyre, McBride Hewitt, Docherty, McGonigal, Fitzpatrick. Subs: Gaddi, Ramsay, McStay, Wilson (GK)

Scorers: Canning, Innes

Booked: Gracie, Sent off: Jack

Video highlights below

Benburb 2 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 7th January 2017

New Tinto Park, Glasgow
Benburb v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

Thistle made their first visit to the new Tinto Park hoping to keep their recent good run going after the Christmas break. The management duo of Tam McLaughin (still on holiday) and Dunky Sinclair (hospitalised with an infected toe) were both missing so the Jags turned to their own three wise men in senior players Mark McKeever, Mark Canning and Hugh Kelly to take charge for the day.

 

On the playing side, Matty Clarke was out as he is still on holiday.

 

The game started with Benburb on the attack and the early pressure paid off for them with a goal inside two minutes. The Thistle defence was caught napping as a ball was delivered to the back post on the right and the Bens player had time to bring it down and slot it past Thomson in the Jags goal.

 

 

After a shaky first fifteen minutes where the home side looked like they might add to the lead, Larkhall came back into the game and started to dominate the midfield with acting co-manager/player/skipper Mark Canning pulling most of the strings.

The referee had denied Thistle a penalty earlier and booked Graham Gracie for simulation but the Jags did get a spot kick for handball in the 30th minute which Canning put away into the bottom corner.

 

 

Graham Gracie nearly put Thistle ahead when he nipped in and intercepted a poor pass-back but his effort didn’t have enough on it to get it over the line. As the half drew to a close, it was Thistle who were well on top and looking most likely to get a lead but that almost went the other way with a slip-up from Andy Brown who sold a back-pass short and let the Benburb player in on goal, fortunately the effort was wide.

 

 

Just before the break, Gracie cut in on his left foot to hit a shot that the home keeper saved but failed to hold, the rebound fell right to Ryan Innes who slotted the ball home low into the corner.

 

Half Time: Benburb 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

 

The second half changed with Benburb belying their bottom-half position by coming out and attacking strongly looking for an equaliser and they nearly got one early on with a header that went just past the post. Thistle replied with a good run and shot from David Reid that the keeper got down well to save.

 

The Jags did however convert one of their chances and extended their lead after 65 minutes when Ryan Innes stuck out a foot and poked a loose ball in from six yards.

 

 

Four minutes later Innes had a golden opportunity grab a rare hat-trick when he was put clean through on goal but the keeper managed to stick out a hand and block his effort and as often happens when a team has the chance to kill the game and doesn’t take it, Benburb went straight up the park and scored.

 

It was a tremendous goal and definitely the best moment of football in the game, a long crossfield pass was swept from left to right and the Bens player did brilliantly to stretch and keep the ball in play while delivering a perfect cross all in one movement, the ball was met with a full-on header that gave Thomson absolutely no chance.

 

 

The goal gave Benburb around 25 minutes to try and get an equaliser and they did press hard to try and get one but the Thistle defence held out well. Liam Mushett came on to replace Gary McStay who once again had shown some excellent hold up play and touches.

 

Both teams did have a few chances each in the closing stages and the home team might just have nicked a point with a penalty claim that was the last incident of the game. The referee waved it away but safe to say Paul Lovering in the home dugout possibly saw it differently.

 

 

Another great win for the Jags that puts them up into second place in the league with St Roch’s having lost to Rossvale today and given the difficult circumstances with the manager and his assistant both being out it was a fantastic performance all round.

 

Full Time: Benburb 2 Larkhall Thistle 3

 

Website man of the match: A hard one with everybody getting at least pass marks but no real outstanding performances, it was all about the team today and MoM goes to Ryan Innes whose goals made the difference.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Reynolds, Brown, Nicholl (Doyle); Canning, Innes, Jack (McKeever 89), Payne, Reid; Gracie, McStay (Mushett 76). Subs: D. Thomson, Rutherford

 

Scorers: Canning, Innes (2)

 

Booked: Gracie, Innes

 

Larkhall Thistle 1 Greenock 1 – 17th December 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Greenock
Central League First Division

 

The cold weather, run up to Christmas and lack of visiting support took its toll on the crowd today as Thistle started with Canning, Innes and Brown all on the bench and McStay and Jack starting in central midfield. The Jags went into the game on a run of three wins as well as having recently won away at Greenock, so it looked like being a home win as long as the attitude and application were right.

For the first 10 minutes the Jags lived up to the pre-match promise and had all of the play, Greenock literally never got our of their own half. However all that changed as they gradually came into the game and their passing football looked much more likely to produce something than the hopeful long balls Thistle were firing up to Gracie and Clarke.

Thistle’s first real attempt at goal was from a Liam Mushett header that went just over the bar from a Josh Payne cross from the right but that was about as close as they came to a goal in the first half.

Greenock thought they had the lead 15 minutes in when a floated ball caught Thomson out of his goal and came down off the bar, it looked like it might have crossed the line but the referee said he wasn’t 100% sure it was in so couldn’t give it. The follow up effort hit the bar and when the got the ball a third time, Donnelly fired well wide wasting a good opportunity.

Thistle weren’t to be outdone though and went right up the park and did the same, a cross from wide right coming off the inside of the post and back into play.

There was another major let off for Larkhall just before the half time whistle when Craig ballooned the ball over the bar from point blank range.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Greenock 0

 

Manager Dunky Sinclair was obviously not entirely pleased with the events of the first half and the way that Greenock had taken control so he replaced McStay and Kelly with Canning and Innes at half time. McStay could count himself a bit unlucky as he showed some great touches in the first half.

 

Thistle turned the game around in the second half and came close with a close range effort from Ryan Innes and a smart shot on the turn from Graham Gracie, followed by a spectacular attempt on the volley from Matty Clarke that would have eclipsed even Niall Reynolds’s effort from last week if it had gone in.

 

Greenock were handed a huge chance to take the lead with just 14 minutes left when Thomson dived at the feet of their striker and was judged to have fouled him, picking up a booking for his troubles. The young keeper had been having a bit of a difficult afternoon at times so it was one of the highlights of the day to see him pull off another save from the resultant penalty, the follow up effort going well past the post.

 

 

Thistle took the lead 10 minutes from time with a goal that came about from a Greenock attack. Niall Reynolds robbed the Greenock substitute with a brilliant last ditch tackle inside the box and set up the move that eventually found Gracie wide on the left. He put in a great cross that was met by Jack who had made a perfectly timed run to meet the ball at the far post and slide it in.

 

 

Gracie almost doubled the lead minutes later with a chip that incredibly also came back off the inside of the woodwork as it looked certain to find the net.

 

It looked like all was going to plan but Greenock pulled back an equaliser that on the day they probably just deserved with a free kick out of the very top drawer, McClune hitting an unstoppable effort into the postage stamp top left corner beyond the flailing Thomson.

 

Thistle pushed hard in the last five minutes for a winner while Greenock looked to have settled for a point and David Reid almost snatched it right at the end with a shot that fizzed across the face of the goal only for keeper McWilliams to get a vital touch.

 

It was a real end to end game that both teams can be reasonably content at not having lost, although the draw brought the Jags run of wins to an end and lost them a bit of ground on the leaders. In a shock turn of events today St Roch’s won at Cambuslang to really stir things up at the top while fourth placed Wishaw also won but stay 6 points behind Thistle.

 

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Greenock 1

 

Website man of the match: The defence were all excellent today but Niall Reynolds just shaded it from Mushett and Nicholl.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Reynolds, Mushett, Nicholl; Kelly, Jack (Innes 45), McStay (Canning 45), Payne, Reid; Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Doyle,

 

Greenock:
McWilliams; Orr, Doherty, McLaughlin, Mitchell; Gormley, Donnelly, McBryde, Brown, Craig, McClune

 

Scorer: Jack

 

Booked: Gracie, Innes, Thomson

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 Rossvale 1 – 10th December 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Rossvale
Central League First Division

After last week’s rout of Bellshill, Thistle faced what looked like it would be a far sterner test today in what was effectively a battle for third place in the league. Rossvale have been on a good run and had only lost once in their last eight games.

Thistle started the game without three big players; Mark Canning and Ryan Innes who were injured and Andy Brown who dropped out in favour of Scott Nicholl who came back in at left back. Missing their influential captain, half their regular midfield and their best defender meant it looked like being an uphill task and so it proved to be. Gary McStay and Brian Jack were recalled to midfield while David Thomson started in goals again.

larkhall-thistle-v-rossvale-1

The game started in a familiar pattern with the Jags having the majority of possession, but although they pressed the visitors defence there were no real chances to speak of in the early part of the game. Rossvale had less of the ball but when they did break, the twin threat of Osadolar and Trussler up front gave the Thistle defence plenty to contend with as they produced more clear chances and looked more like scoring.

As the half wore on Rossvale took command of the game and Thistle would have been happy to go into the interval on level terms but the referee did his best to try and change it with one of the worst penalty awards you’ll see anywhere. Osadolar found himself one on one with the young Jags keeper and as he went round him, appeared to have been hit by a sniper as he went down with nobody near him. Justice was done though as the striker took the penalty himself but his tame effort was easily stopped by Thomson.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Rossvale 0

Once again there was an early goal at the start of the half and this time it was the Jags who appeared a bit sluggish after the break. Holmes produced a moment of real quality for his team as he turned Josh Payne out in the right back position and cut inside, drilling a low shot through a clump of players into the bottom corner.

Rossvale looked to be happy with their lead and their coaching staff were encouraging time wasting tactics with half an hour still to play. In the end it came back to bite them severely as they might well have been able to build on their lead rather than try and kill the game as instructed.

larkhall-thistle-v-rossvale-2

Scott Nicholl had taken his time getting back up to speed and he would admit the first half wasn’t his best but the second period was a different story altogether with some tremendous efforts at goal including a rasping free kick that rattled the post and a tremendous 25 yard drive that drew the best save of the day from keeper Donnelly.

The game looked like it might be drifting away from Thistle until the most unlikely of equalisers with three minutes left to play. Graham Gracie took a long throw on the right and although the tactic has come in for criticism over the years, this time it produced a goal when it mattered. The ball bounced once just past the penalty spot and Niall Reynolds watched it go over his head then swung and hit a brilliant overhead kick over the keeper and into the net.

The Jags now had the momentum and pushed for the winner which came a minute into stoppage time. Gracie drove forward on the other wing this time and picked out Jack at the back of the box, he took a touch inside the defender and scrambled the ball to substitute Matty Clarke who rolled it into the corner.

After the late losses to Fauldhouse and Lesmahagow the Jags supporters were delighted to see the tables turned this time in what was a significant result as it took them six points clear of Rossvale in fourth with a game in hand. It also took them level on points with St Roch’s who lost today, but leaders Cambuslang Rangers emphasised that they mean business with an incredible 9-1 win at Benburb.

league-table

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Rossvale 1

Website man of the match: Good displays from Kelly in midfield and the Gracie/McKeever partnership up front but Liam Mushett gets the virtual bottle of champagne this week with a commanding performance in the middle of the defence.

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Reynolds, Mushett, Nicholl; Kelly, Jack, McStay (Clarke 70), Payne, Reid; McKeever, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Doyle, Burns

Rossvale:
Donnelly; Tart, McDowell, Doherty, Leadbetter; Holmes, O’Brien, McGrath, Dickie; Osadolar, Trussler

Scorers: Reynolds, Clarke

Booked: Gracie, Kelly

Wishaw 1 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 12th November 2016

The Beltane, Wishaw
Wishaw v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

Thistle recalled Andy Brown to right back and moved Niall Reynolds to left back, Liam Mushett started at centre half. Ryan Innes was recalled to midfield and Mark McKeever started up front with Graham Gracie. Brian Jack and Matty Clarke dropped to the bench.

Wishaw made the brighter start to the game and it wasn’t till after five minutes that Thistle even got out off their own half but the early efforts didn’t result in any chances being created.

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The Jags did come into the game as the half went on but apart from a couple of long range efforts from Mark Canning there wasn’t really much of a threat to the home goal, meanwhile Wishaw had one good chance to take the lead but ex-Thistle player Ross McGeachie squandered a free header from close range.

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The half was saved from mediocrity though with a great goal just before half time, David Reid firing a tremendous shot on the volley that gave the home keeper no chance.

Half time: Wishaw 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

Thistle increased their lead eight minutes into the second half when McKeever did well to play the ball out of defence to Graham Gracie on the left, he switched the ball across the park to Josh Payne on the right who took a fantastic touch to control the ball and leave the first defender, he then cut inside past another and drilled the ball low into the bottom corner.

Wishaw hardly had time to recover from this blow when Ryan Innes nearly added a third goal, Reid drove a free kick across the area and Reggie stooped to glance the ball goalwards and only the face of the bar stopped it from being a goal. The ball dropped back down into the box three yards out but there were no takers and the home defence scrambled it clear.

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Wishaw pressed looking to get back into the game and got a lifeline through a penalty award for handball by Innes. As Thomson dived to his left the ball was calmly rolled into the opposite side of the goal.

The home fightback only lasted a few minutes though as Larkhall went right back up the park and set McKeever clear, the last home defender having no option but to pull him down to save what would probably have been a goal. The referee awarded a free kick on the edge of the box and sent the defender off and to add to their misery Reid slammed the free kick low into the net through the wall.

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The drama continued to unfold as next Ryan Innes completed an eventful return by getting a second yellow card for a mistimed tackle. This gave Wishaw fresh hope and they were on top for most of the rest of the game, bringing out two cracking saves from Thomson to preserve the lead as well as missing a few good chances – McGeachie being the culprit on more than one occasion.

Dunky Sinclair made two late substitutions, bringing on Matty Clarke and Brian Jack for Mark McKeever and Hugh Kelly, both having put in tremendous shifts.

It was a win Thistle needed to keep pace with leaders Cambuslang Rangers and St Roch’s who both also won today and keeps the Jags well in the hunt for the promotion places.

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Full time: Wishaw 1 Larkhall Thistle 3

Website man of the match: Very difficult today with the whole defence looking solid and only spoiling the clean sheet with a soft penalty, Canning and Kelly controlling the centre of the park and Gracie and McKeever battling all day up front, but MoM this week goes to David Reid for the extra bit of quality he brought with two fine goals.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly (Jack 85), Payne, Innes, Canning, Reid; McKeever (Clarke 80), Gracie.

Scorers: Reid (2) Payne

Booked: Mushett, Kelly

Sent off: Innes

Cambuslang Rangers 4 Larkhall Thistle 1 – 5th November 2016

Somervell Park, Cambuslang Rangers
Cambuslang Rangers v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

With Thistle starting the game three points behind league leaders Cambuslang, this was the biggest league game the Jags had played for a number of years. Manager Dunky Sinclair decided to once again go without the club’s best defender and outstanding player for the last two seasons in Andy Brown, but instead leave a back three that was missing suspended Scott Nicholl and bring in Liam Mushett in place of last week’s starter Declan Doyle at right back.

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It proved to be a gamble that backfired in a big way and although Niall Reynolds did well to try and cover the whole defensive area at times, the lack of pace and mobility in the full back areas cost the team dearly in the end.

After an even opening spell where there weren’t any real chances created, Cambuslang gradually took over the game and after about twenty minutes they were dominating and continued to do so for the rest of the match.

Stuart Thomson in the Thistle goal had to look sharp to get down and make a good double block as the home team turned the screw looking for the opener and they were really unlucky minutes later when Tommo did well to get anything on a rasping long range effort from their left back but could only parry it onto the head of an inrushing striker who managed to head it over the bar from point blank range.

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Thistle having not produced much at all in an attacking sense managed to get to half time with their goal intact through a combination of some last gasp defending and sheer luck and the home side could have counted themselves very unlucky to go in at the break still level.

Half time: Cambuslang Rangers 0 Larkhall Thistle 0

The second half started much where the first had finished with Cambuslang on top and Thistle reduced to occasional breakaways, so it was a major surprise when the Jags took the lead. But even the goal owed more to good fortune than it did good play as they were awarded a hotly contested penalty for what seemed to be a nothing incident on the edge of the box. After the ‘Lang protests had died down, Mark Canning stepped up to slot the ball confidently past the home keeper.

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That was about the end of the good news for Thistle as the rest of the day went from bad to worse.

The only real surprise was that Cambuslang had to wait till the 73rd minute to get their equaliser, a cross from the right wing was met with a great glancing header that took it away from Thomson into the top corner and gave the Jags keeper no chance.

Ryan Innes could also have counted himself unlucky to be left out given his recent fine form but he came on to replace Brian Jack just after the goal in an attempt to inject some energy and steel in the midfield.

Thistle were now under constant pressure and had another major break minutes later when the home centre forward fired a point blank header straight at Thomson, but it only postponed what was looking to be the inevitable and indeed the goal did come when the Thistle defence could not clear the ball out of their box and their No 20 latched on to it and crashed it into the roof of the net.

David Reid was having a bit of a fruitless afternoon on the left side and was replaced just after the goal by Mark McKeever, getting a rare appearance this season.

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Cambuslang were in no mood to rest on their laurels and kept the pressure up, winning a corner on the left which was put into their own net by the Thistle defence in a goal-line tangle. The rout was complete four minutes into added time when another cross from the Thistle left back position was tapped in from close range by the home No 9, who made an unneccessary giruy gesture to the Thistle defence and should really have been booked for his stupidity.

It was a game that showed Thistle have a way to go before they can realistically challenge for the league and once again showed that they have a decent best starting eleven but are lacking in depth, especially in defence.

Full time: Cambuslang Rangers 4 Larkhall Thistle 1

Website man of the match: Hugh Kelly battled away in midfield and although he played a few stray passes he’s the pick this week.

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Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Burns; Kelly, Payne, Jack (Innes 76), Canning, Reid (McKeever 81); Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Brown, McStay, Doyle

Scorer: Canning

Booked: Kelly